Red, ornamental dragon, courtesy rumpleteaser/flickr
This issue of the PacNet was published by the Pacific Forum CSIS on 12 July 2016. The article first appeared in the CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative Brief
Today an arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague issued a long-awaited ruling in Manila’s case against Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea. The five-judge tribunal was established under the compulsory dispute settlement provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and despite China’s refusal to participate in the proceedings, its ruling is final and legally binding. For a closer look at the tribunal’s ruling and the areas it leaves legally disputed in the South China Sea, visit the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative’s new interactive map.
Q1: What did the tribunal rule?
The judges issued a unanimous decision in favor of the Philippines on the overwhelming majority of the claims it made against China. They invalidated Beijing’s claims to ill-defined historic rights throughout the nine-dash line, finding that any claims it makes in the South China Sea must be made based on maritime entitlements from land features. The tribunal ruled that any other historic rights China might once have claimed in what are now the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) or continental shelves of other countries were invalidated by its ratification of UNCLOS. On the question of specific maritime entitlements over disputed features, the court found that Scarborough Shoal is a rock entitled only to a 12-nautical-mile territorial sea. The judges cannot rule on sovereignty over that shoal, but ruled that China has violated the traditional fishing rights of Filipinos by not allowing them to fish at the shoal. Notably the tribunal said it would have found the same regarding Chinese fishermen if they were prevented access to the shoal by the Philippines.
Colombian Paratroops. Photo by Ronald Dueñas/Flickr.
In addition to their love for telenovelas, as well as their cuisine and religion borne out of a shared Spanish heritage, Colombia and the Philippines now have one more thing in common. This [month], both countries took another step toward peace with their respective armed groups, which could lead to the end of internal conflicts that are among the oldest in the world. On October 15, the Philippines entered into a peace accord with the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Two days later, Colombia’s government began peace talks in Oslo with the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Each of these presents a unique opportunity for civil society to sustain peace by fostering trust and accountability over issues such as land rights, delivery of social services, political participation at the local and national level, and tolerance for other people’s beliefs. » More
Philippine Marines during an amphibious assault training exercise. Image by Wikimedia Commons.
A maritime dispute with China has forced the Philippines to review its defense capabilities. Tension arose earlier this year when Beijing and Manila accused each other of illegally occupying the waters near the disputed Scarborough Shoals in the South China Sea.
The government has already dispatched several diplomatic missions seeking military agreements or cooperation with various countries in the Asia-Pacific. » More
Southeast Asia is more than just white sand beaches, temples and resorts: it is also one of the most war-ravaged regions of the planet. Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, for example, were among the most heavily bombed countries in the world over the past century. Nearly a third of the cluster bombs dropped by the United States in Laos between 1964 and 1973 failed to detonate and are still scattered across the country. Anna MacDonald, head of Oxfam International’s Control Arms Campaign, outlines the quiet but dangerous rural scenery of Laos:
“Stepping off the plane at Xieng Khuang province we were in a very rural area. Fields with water buffalos and rice paddies abound, and the hilly countryside is criss-crossed with farmer’s fields and small traditional wooden houses. It’s a gentle, peaceful setting that belies the deadly war-time legacy which is all around – 100% of villages here have UXO (unexploded ordenance) in their fields and surroundings.” » More